Inihaw na Liempo (Filipino-Style Grilled Pork Belly)

Inihaw na liempo, or Filipino grilled pork belly, boasts a combination of smoky, savory, and slightly sweet flavors through a classic soy-calamansi marinade.
2–3 servings
3 Hrs
Active Time
20 Mins

Book that beach trip and bring out your favorite swimsuit—it’s summer! Time to dust off that old grill, too, because the only way to cap off a sun-soaked dip in the sea is post-swim inihaw na liempo. Picture juicy, freshly grilled pork belly glistening on banana leaves, served with hot steamed rice and ice-cold beer. Sawsawan encouraged, but optional; the inihaw is flavorful as is.

If it’s your first time on ihaw duty, we have the basics covered for your best inihaw na liempo ever.

What is inihaw?

In Filipino cuisine, inihaw refers to meat, seafood, or vegetables grilled over hot coals or an open flame.

Inihaw comes from the root word ihaw, meaning “to grill” or “to roast”. Grilled chicken becomes inihaw na manok; grilled fish is inihaw na isda. This recipe is for grilled pork belly or inihaw na liempo.

Marinate your pork belly before grilling

Marinades add flavor to your inihaw. Like a sponge, the meat will soak in the flavorful liquid as it marinates, making it juicier and tastier. No marinade = sad, bland liempo.

We soak our pork belly in a marinade of soy sauce, banana ketchup, calamansi juice, lemongrass, and garlic. This infuses every inch of your inihaw with savory-sweet-tangy Filipino flavors.

Having an acid in your marinade—in this case, calamansi juice—helps break down the meat’s tough proteins, making it softer and more tender when grilled. Don’t have calamansi juice? Sub it with lemon juice or cane vinegar.

How long should you marinate? We find that just 3 hours already delivers full-flavored pork belly. You can double that and marinate for 6 hours safely, if you have the time.

Turn the marinade into a sauce for basting

Once you’re ready to grill, don’t waste all that leftover marinade! You can reuse it for basting, but not in its current state—that’s like using dirty mop water to clean your floor. Because it's been used as a bath for raw meat, your marinade poses a potential food safety risk.

To make your marinade safe for basting, bring it to a complete rolling boil to kill any foodborne bacteria. Transfer your leftover marinade into a saucepan, then bring it to a boil over the stove. Let cook for about 5 minutes to kill off the bacteria.

If you want to err on the side of caution, you can also make a fresh marinade from scratch!

Whether you’re using old or new marinade, the point stands that basting while grilling is important. It does three things:

  • It keeps the pork belly moist and hydrated, preventing it from drying out on the grill.
  • It enhances the flavor of your pork belly further. As you paint layer upon layer of extra marinade, you’re adding extra flavor, too.
  • It gives your pork belly a delicious brown color. The sugars in the reduced marinade caramelize when cooked, forming an attractive browned exterior all over your liempo.

Ultimately, basting while grilling ensures that your liempo stays juicy and flavorful throughout the grilling process.

For perfect inihaw, set your grill up with a two-zone fire

A two-zone fire heats up your grill on only one side. This divides your grill into two areas:

  • a hot zone with direct heat
  • a cooler zone with indirect heat

With this setup, you first sear your meat over the hot zone, then move to the cooler zone for basting without overcooking or burning.

To set up a two-zone fire, pile charcoal or light gas burners on one side to form your direct heat zone. Leave the other side empty or unlit for your cooler zone.

Pork Belly

  • 1 lb (450g) pork belly, sliced lengthwise into ½-inch thick strips


  • ½ cup calamansi juice
  • ¼ cup banana ketchup
  • ⅓ cup light soy sauce
  • ¼ cup lemongrass, sliced thinly or pulsed to a paste
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 8 garlic cloves, roughly minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • freshly ground black pepper

Make marinade: Combine calamansi juice, banana ketchup, light soy sauce, lemongrass, brown sugar, garlic, bay leaf and pepper in a mixing bowl. Whisk until sugar has fully dissolved.


Marinate pork belly: Transfer marinade to a large ziplock bag or airtight glass or plastic container. Add sliced pork belly to the marinade, tossing until well coated. Seal bag or cover container. Transfer pork to the refrigerator and let marinate, 3–6 hours.


Cook marinade: When you’re ready to cook, drain marinade into a skillet or saucepan. Bring marinade to a boil over medium heat. If you see any extra sediment, scrape it out with a spoon and discard. Let marinade boil vigorously for about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer. Continue cooking the marinade until slightly thickened. Transfer to a bowl and prepare a silicone brush for basting later.

(If reusing the marinade makes you anxious, you can remake a fresh batch.)


Grill pork: Heat up one side of a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high, leaving the other side unlit or unheated. This creates direct and indirect heat zones in your grill.

Grill pork belly slices over the hot side of the grill, turning once or twice, until each side develops some color. Move pork to the indirect heat side of the grill. Baste pork with marinade, then return to the direct heat side of the grill. Continue grilling and basting until pork is cooked through and slightly charred at the edges, about 7–10 minutes.


Serve: Transfer inihaw to a serving platter. Serve with your favorite sawsawan and hot steamed rice.

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